Today we recognize the end of the school year by celebrating some of our exceptional high school and college graduates. These youth and other SchoolHouse Connection scholars are breaking the cycle of homelessness by earning their high school and college degrees. We are especially inspired by their resilience and determination in navigating their final semesters during the coronavirus pandemic. We could not be more proud of them, and of all our SchoolHouse Connection scholars. We are honored to support them to and through college, and into the workforce, and we thank them for allowing us to share their words.

Mirka Mendez

Graduated College: May 2020

Major: Bachelor of Science in Petroleum Engineering with a certificate in Business Foundations

Summer Plans: Was planning a solo backpacking trip of Eastern Europe but had to cancel due to the pandemic.

Next Steps: I am moving to Houston, TX to start my new job as an energy sales and commercial associate with Baker Hughes.

“Attending a higher education institution has been my goal for many years. My path has not been easy. Many difficulties impacted me but they also gave me a reason to be persistent, to be grateful, and to demonstrate that I could become someone. We can create change for ourselves and for others with the right amount of determination.”

Hayden Prater

Graduated High School: May 2020

Summer Plans: During the summer, I plan to take online classes and start working on my education as early as possible.

Next steps: Attend The University of Kentucky in the fall (on campus hopefully) and advance my education as much as possible.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” – Philippians 4:13 KJV

Ashley Paz

Graduated High School: May 2020

Summer Plans: Summer Internships for Bank of America and SHC.

Next Steps: In the fall, I plan to continue my path of education while at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, whether that be online or on campus in Troy, New York for a BA in Industrial Engineering and Management.

“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same.” – Flavia Weedn

Lanie Forquer

Graduated High School: December 2019

Summer Plans: This summer, I plan to continue classes at my local community college, where I am also a work-study student. Whenever I’m not in classes or at work, I will likely be found in the pool with my brother and boyfriend.

Next Steps: I plan to graduate Crowder College in the spring of 2021 with an Associates in general studies. Following graduation, I will continue my studies at a university. I’m hoping to participate in internships to discover what path I should continue on.

“If people are doubting how far you can go, go so far that you can’t hear them anymore.” – Michele Ruiz

Caitlin Vela-Mota

Graduated High School: June 2020

Summer Plans: This summer, I’m excited to finally start living life. I did enjoy high school, but it felt like a period in life that was a long transitional moment where it wasn’t until after graduation I would actually be able to pursue my passion.

Next Steps: I plan to be involved in the Women in Engineering Program at UT and I’m so excited to learn more about my major. I’m applying to as many scholarships as possible right now and have been blessed with a few like the Baumberger Endowment. I’m working so hard to make my dream come true, and I see myself being very happy at UT, and I couldn’t ask for more. I’m grateful to all the people that have gotten me to where I am today and where I soon will be. Now I’m off to live my dreams.

“To infinity and beyond!” – Buzz Lightyear

Samantha Kinney

Graduated High School: Originally in May 2020 but got postponed to July 2020.

Summer Plans: This summer, I originally had plans to go on multiple trips with my friends and family and just make it one of my best summers before I go off to college, but unfortunately, Covid-19 made me cancel those plans so now my plans are working full time, potentially having a graduation in July, and maybe going to Washington DC to collect my Horatio Alger National Scholarship in July as well.

Next Steps: Starting this fall, I will be going to Mizzou and majoring in Biology as well as minoring in Psychology while following their Pre-Med path. I plan to become a plastic surgeon.

“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” – Dolly Parton

Edward Vere

Graduated College: May 2020

Major: Urban Studies (BA)

Summer Plans: This summer, I’m doing a 4-month contract research project with Opportunity International. It’s remote, so I also plan to travel around the country while doing it- chasing waterfalls.

Next Steps: Take the GRE, create things, work part-time, plant a garden, and be kind.

“My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. But a multitude of drops?” – David Mitchell

Paul Turner

Graduated College: May 2020

Major: Theatre

Summer Plans: I plan to get work in NYC at Scenic Art Studios, as I aim to become a Scenic Painter. Right now it is essential that I gain experience in this field. Like many fields, Scenic Artists get most of their jobs through connections and relationships with people.

Next steps: Build a website for my Scenic Art portfolio and start making connections in the field. Eventually, I’d like to join a union.

“You can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself. You matter. You’re important.” – Paul Turner

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